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Keeping Up With Online Assignments and Grading

Busy!One of the best parts of of being a union president is that you get invited to new faculty orientation and similar events every year, so you get to meet new colleagues from all over campus. This year, at lunch, the topic of discussion at my table eventually turned toward learning management systems vs. roll-your-own assignments. New part-time faculty often have the experience of having to juggle multiple LMS platforms–one for each campus or system–every semester, which isn’t fun or efficient.

I mentioned a variety of assignments–wikified class notes, blogging, etc.–and, after some initial interest, one of the more experienced faculty said, “sounds like a lot of grading, though.” Which is true! There is an awful lot of grading, more than I’d thought when I started moving toward many of these assignments, years ago.

But there’s a line from David Allen’s Getting Things Done that I think is relevant:

You have to think about your stuff more than you realize but not as much as you’re afraid you might.

This is certainly true about networked, student-centered assignments: On the one hand, a lot comes up that can’t be anticipated easily. (Bad: There’s always some weird, hard-to-replicate technical problem. Good: A student comes up with a powerful, interesting idea that shifts the course of a few weeks’ discussion into terrain you weren’t expecting.) And if you have students blogging, and commenting on one another’s blogs, regularly, then that’s a lot to read. There’s no getting around it. On the other hand, the other thing to see is that grading online writing isn’t exactly like grading formal papers.

Moreover, there are multiple factors that help you stay on top of the online work:

If you are considering trying an online assignment, or are trying to convince other people to try one, the pedagogical benefits aren’t enough. It’s also important to see that while the work involved is different, it doesn’t have to be unmanageable.

Do you have a strategy for keeping up with online assignments? Let us know in comments!

Photo by Flickr user The Italian Voice / Creative Commons licensed

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